Dealing with a bipolar spouse can be a very difficult thing, but can be no more difficult than dealing with a non-bipolar spouse, depending on you. Every relationship has its ups and downs, and you have to work at it to make it work. Compassion, understanding, trust, honesty…all the components that make up a good relationship…will make dealing with a bipolar spouse easier.
Dealing with a bipolar spouse does have additional pressures, however, than dealing with a non-bipolar spouse. For instance, making sure they take their medication is an extremely important thing. Since stabilization is the primary goal of bipolar treatment, and medication the primary way of attaining that stabilization; and, since, it is difficult for many people with Bipolar Disorder to remember to take their bipolar medication, it falls upon the non-bipolar spouse to help them remember to take that medication.
Bipolar Disorder is believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and mood swings are a major characteristic of the disorder. Even with medication, though, some people are unable to control the moods from breaking through at times. At those times it falls to you, the non-bipolar spouse, to have that extra bit of compassion, understanding, and patience.
For someone with Bipolar Disorder, there are things they can do to try to minimize the effect of the mood swings on them and on your relationship, but they cannot control the mood swings. That is why they take the medication—especially mood stabilizers—because mood stabilization medication is the best hope we have to control the mood swings so prevalent in Bipolar Disorder. But one thing medication cannot give is compassion. That’s something that has to come from you, which is difficult, as sometimes emotions are hard to control. It’s hard to remember that the lows experienced with Bipolar Disorder are not your spouse’s fault, or under his/her control, but the fact is, they are not.
Having Bipolar Disorder, even with medication, your spouse may still experience low moods here and there. That is why it is important for them to maintain a regular relationship with both their psychiatrist and their therapist, and it may be necessary for you to help them get to these appointments. If your spouse experiences break-through mood swings, it may be necessary for them to have their psychiatrist increase the dose of their medication, and/or be prescribed additional medication, or be switched to a different medication.
One of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder mania is excessive spending, or 'spending sprees.' This comes from a sort of 'short-circuit,' where the person with bipolar spends money without the thought of the consequences to spending that money; like, for instance, using a charge card without thought of having to pay the bill that will come later. For you, instead of having to deal with the resentment towards your bipolar spouse when this happens, it may simply be as easy as you carrying the charge cards instead of your bipolar spouse, so that should they fall into a manic episode, you can avoid this problem altogether.
Dealing with a bipolar spouse, you also need to learn to read their non-verbal cues. You may observe them staring off into space for long periods of time, or they may be showing other signs of an inability to focus. These may be non-verbal cues that they are going into, or are in, a bipolar depressive episode. Another non-verbal sign may be if, when you are talking to them, they seem to be 'staring right through you,' and not listening to what you say.
In dealing with a bipolar spouse, one important thing to remember is to take care of yourself. You will be no good to your spouse if you are no good to yourself first. Make sure you are sleeping well, eating a healthy diet, exercising, etc., and that you are doing what it takes to be physically and mentally balanced yourself.
Dealing with a bipolar spouse may be frustrating at times. You may feel as if they are 'faking it,' or using it as an excuse for their behavior, but this is not true. You need to be knowledgeable of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, so that you can distinguish between which is the disorder and which is your spouse.
A person with Bipolar Disorder has no control over the symptoms of their disorder; however, with mood-stabilizing medication and an understanding and compassionate spouse, they stand a much better chance of control of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.
David Oliver is the nation's leading experts on helping and supporting a loved one with bipolar disorder. You can get learn about many of David's little known, yet effective strategies to cope and deal with your loved one's bipolar by clicking here right now. View all articles by David Oliver